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Effective Engineering Professional Development for Elementary Educators

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2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition


San Antonio, Texas

Publication Date

June 10, 2012

Start Date

June 10, 2012

End Date

June 13, 2012



Conference Session

K-12 Teacher Professional Development

Tagged Division

K-12 & Pre-College Engineering

Page Count


Page Numbers

25.503.1 - 25.503.24



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Paper Authors


Kristin Sargianis Museum of Science, Boston

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Kristin Sargianis is a Program Manager on the EiE Professional Development team. She has been a part of the EiE project for over seven years, working on curriculum development as well as professional development and research/evaluation efforts. Sargianis was previously a K-2 classroom teacher at Anova: The Massachusetts School for Science, Creativity, and Leadership. She received her B.S. in biology from Cornell University and has worked as a research assistant conducting studies on ecological and marine systems.

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Sharlene Yang Museum of Science, Boston

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Sharlene Yang is the Professional Development Director for the Engineering is Elementary project. She has 10+ years of experience as both a science educator and researcher that includes teaching biology, environmental outreach education, and research in biopsychology. Prior to joining the EiE team, Yang was a founding teacher at an alternative school for “at risk” teens. She understands the challenges of working with children that struggle in a mainstream school environment and the importance of creating a classroom that fosters inquiry and student-centered learning. With that in mind, Yang conducts teacher professional development that not only teaches content, but models strong science pedagogy so that elementary school teachers can experience for themselves the power of inquiry-based and open-ended learning. Yang received her B.A. in biology and psychology from Cornell University, her M.S. in biopsychology from the University of Michigan, and her M.A.T. in science education from Tufts University.

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Christine M. Cunningham Museum of Science, Boston Orcid 16x16

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Effective Engineering Professional Development for Elementary EducatorsWith the announcement that the new Science Education Frameworks include engineering as acore discipline, teachers across the United States will need to prepare to introduce their studentsto the “E” in STEM. Since 2003, our project has created 20 research-based and classroom-testedcurriculum units, which integrate engineering and technology concepts and skills into sciencetopics already taught in elementary schools. In addition to curriculum development, we have alsobeen committed to providing excellent engineering professional development (PD) to teachers.This paper describes lessons we have learned over the course of over five years of experienceconducting engineering PD workshops for over 3,000 elementary teachers across the UnitedStates. For the vast majority of PD workshops, the goals are very similar: (1) to introduceparticipants to technology and engineering and help them to understand the relationship betweenthe two; and (2) to increase participants’ abilities to and confidence in teaching engineering totheir students. Through our work, we have discovered several best practices and key workshopcomponents, which we believe are essential for conducting effective engineering PD:• Facilitating workshops that primarily consist of hands-on activities rather than using a lecture-based format.• Beginning workshops (and activities within workshops) with brief, informal, formative assessments of participants’ prior knowledge.• Using hands-on activities and group discussions to ensure that participants come to a common understanding of the definitions of technology and engineering.• Having the facilitator model effective pedagogical approaches, such as asking open-ended questions, facilitating discussions among participants, etc.• Limiting the number of workshop participants to no more than 25 in order to actively engage all participants in discussions.• Engaging teachers in hands-on activities as learners, meaning that workshop participants engage in the exact same activities that their students will do in the classroom.• Having participants primarily work in small groups to foster discussion among participants as well as to model how the curriculum intends students will work in the classroom.• Providing participants with opportunities during the workshop to reflect on what they have learned thus far and to think about how their new experiences might affect their practice.• Clearly defining the portions of the PD workshop when participants should be thinking from the perspective of their students versus the perspective of themselves as educators.While we are submitting this paper as a “work in progress,” preliminary data from workshopparticipant surveys show that participants agree that many of these components appear in PDworkshops and that after participating in a PD workshop, they feel more confident and preparedto teach engineering to their students.

Sargianis, K., & Yang, S., & Cunningham, C. M. (2012, June), Effective Engineering Professional Development for Elementary Educators Paper presented at 2012 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, San Antonio, Texas. 10.18260/1-2--21261

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